Chairlift trivia: What part of skidding down frozen mountains and wearing puffy waterproof clothes makes us crave the stuff that sticks to our ribs? Survival.
Thank your primal hunter and gatherer (H&G) ancestors for your attraction to meatloaf and gravy. While H&G didn’t eat chicken pot pies, they are our predecessors responsible for shaping our brains to seek calories (survival). And how this relates to skiing? Long ago, our bodies were biologically adapted to endure long winters. Fat and sugar meant survival. We’re programmed to habitually pack on the pounds to protect our bodies from winter’s famine. Pillaging through pine trees in subzeroes is pretty primal, thus triggers a similar response: EAT.
Now we have feast, but no famine. So we’re still wired to seek fats and sugars to get that “survival signal”, but there’s no shortage of food. We’re overeating like H&G, but unlike them, our food has low-to-no nutrition per calorie. It’s a two-part issue: it’s what we’re eating (sugars and fats) and what we’re not eating (vitamins, minerals and fiber). We’re overfed, yet starving to death.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first one to tell you that I dream of butter in lift lines. But I’ve learned since my hot cocoa kinder years….casserole confusion = Apres ski mistake. Stroganoff will not give you slopeside staying power. Food hangovers exist and punish your powder day.
Comfort food should be comfortable; hearty, yet heart healthy.
Here’s a recipe that will help you get gnarly without feeling gnarly. Bomb cliffs, not your pants gut.
Huckleberry Thinn’s Rustic Buffalo Barley Mushroom Stew
Adapted from Ready Made’s Mushroom and Barley Stew
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a deep stock pot over medium-high heat > Add 1 chopped yellow onion, 2 peeled and diced carrots, and 2 chopped leeks > saute until tinged gold > add 6 minced cloves of garlic > Add 1 pound (sliced) of a variety of mushrooms (1/2 cremini & 1/2 shiitake) and continue sautéing until they begin to release their juices.
Separately: In a cast iron skillet, brown 1 pound buffalo meat (USDA certified organic, please) > Add to mushroom mixture.
Add 1/3 cup red wine and 1 tablespoon soy sauce to stew > Stir and let cook until liquid reduces > Add 1 cup of uncooked barley > Add 1 bay leaf, 2 tablespoon of dried thyme and 3 tablespoons dried parsley > Add pepper > Sauté for 1 minute > Add 5 cups of vegetable stock (I like Better Than Bouillon) and bring stew to a rolling boil > Reduce heat to a low setting, cover, and let stew for ~1 hour or until barley is cooked > Remove bay leaf, top with fresh parsley.
If you’re like me (ravenous after skiing), “reheat” is your favorite recipe. Double batch this stew and freeze half. Savor in front of a fireplace with a six pack of Mountain Standard IPA.
Nutrition Facts: The beef vs. buffalo buzz
Buffalo is America’s meat. Really. It was the primary meat source to Grandma and Grandpa Plain Indian (hence why they nearly became extinct in the late 1800s).
Compared to beef, buffalo has much less fat (~70-90%) and cholesterol (~50%). It’s higher in protein, iron, omegas and amino acids. Buffalo bonus: They’re naturally resistant to disease and don’t need antibiotics and hormones. Bad ass buffalo. Buy local when you can. [Of course this varies with quality and cuts].
Buffalo tastes better. It’s no longer reserved for the adventurous. If you like the idea of the firm texture of beef without the greasy-mouth feel; you’ll like buffalo. Sweeter than beef, buffalo isn’t “gamey” as most would suspect. In fact, it’s the preferred taste of many top chefs, environmentalists and dietitians. While I’m not any of those fancy things (yet), I can attest that buffalo is the perfect protein for a rustic mountain man feast, with or without skiing.
Read this: New York Time’s Home on the Kitchen Range
Disclaimer: While moderate consumption of responsibly raised meat and animal products may offer health-promoting benefits, there’s evidence that over consuming our animal friends is tied to today’s global epidemic of lifestyle diseases. [Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, Michael Murray N.D.]